There’s no easy way to tell a child that they can’t have technology when all their friends do. A child is never going to say they’re not interested in technology. They’re surrounded by it at school and they want to be on it all the time. In comes SmartFeed, a powerful new tool to help parents embrace technology while maintaining control. SmartFeed is a really easy way to set up age appropriate content for the kids, giving them the freedom to choose within the parameters parents assign. Instead of pushing technology away from your kids, take ownership of what content they see and use it for good. I sat down with Linsly Donnelly, founder an CEO of SmartFeed to learn more.
Explain how SmartFeed works.
SmartFeed is a platform for parents - and other “stewards” of children’s mindsets like teachers, librarians, grandparents and kid sitters - to easily and quickly find great media content for their kids, all in one place.
We let user tell us what they prioritize - in terms of kids’ interests, academic topics and any family values or character traits they’d love to reinforce in media experiences. We then offer a way to filter “in” important elements like positive role models and messages as well as filter out more disappointing things like violence, sexual content or profanity.
Can I take a test run?
Yes, our Beta version is at beta.thesmartfeed.com. This is our first prototype to test our data feed and tagging model.
As a busy parent, my time is very limited.
No problem. If a parent has no time to set up these profiles, we offer a collection of “lists” to help solve common problems like "Travel Time” or “Prevent Summer Learning Loss” as well as “Give me 30 minutes!” or “Family Movie Night” and “Netflix that’s good for you” or “Amazon that’s ‘free’”.
That's great. So how do you do this?
We have both rich technology (data and algorithms) and smart people (our curator team) behind our platform. We do the work for you, so that you can find exactly what’s right for your family, quickly and easily.
Even though we research kids’ media, we don’t consider ourselves media experts. We pull reviews from trusted editorial sources like Common Sense Media, Parent’s Choice, Caldecott, Newberry Award Winners, Kids in Mind, Children’s Tech Review, and man more…to then hand-curate lists to help you surface great content from these inspiring editorial sources. We then organize it so that YOU can be the expert about what your kids watch, read, play and share.
You can just look up any title to see what the experts say - reviews from our trusted editorial sources as well as user reviews from other parents. We offer similar titles to ones you may like as well as a list of what primary topic tags a media title covers. We even pull in the Bechdel Test API to rate how a title passes the women presentation acid test there.
What new features are you rolling out this summer?
Thanks to our amazing Kickstarter Backers and Beta Testers who’ve been road testing our various prototypes for the last few months - at long last we’re rolling out a myriad of updates based on things we heard were important to help in this media management conundrum, including:
🔵 A new Web App user experience so that it’s easier to find what you like, save it and share it with people in your family community.
🔵 Playlists; so you can group media you love by ideas (Coding, Spanish) or situation (Roadtrips, Dinner Parties, Date night / good for all our kids)
🔵 Easy ways to share what you love - titles / playlist - with families in your community. Since it does take a village, it helps to have an organized way to share what’s working for you and what you would hope your community shares with your child when they’re staying / playing at someone else’s home.
🔵 Our iOs app - to make it easy to find what you’ve loved and mindfully saved for kids’ screen time - as close to your finger tips as the remote or the “download” this button your kids may be oh-so-gently- prompting you to push.
Kids are so technology savvy. How does SmartFeed prevent a precocious child from quitting out of the service and bypass SmartFeed entirely?
We believe the parenting opportunity with healthy media is the same as it is for nutritious food habits. Our odds of success in positively shaping our kids’ mindsets lie in presenting them with an ocean of great options - they can then independently choose to find great stuff they love vs. prohibiting bad stuff.
That said - we have a myriad of favorite tools we use to keep kids in more of a "walled garden experience." But at this time, our product is about offering up great choices, not restricting them from the bad choices.
SmartFeed's scope seems so huge—managing not only apps and websites, but also movies, tv shows, ebooks, and music. How does SmartFeed apply it's technology across all these platforms?
We have a robust data management engine to start with, so this enables us to churn through huge numbers of titles and analyze them using algorithms we've developed. We started small and are growing reasonably, so that we can verify the quality of what's in the database. To date, we've focused on movies, TV Shows, Apps and - as of last month - books. We’re now about about 27,000 titles and growing!
Everyone uses their own mix of subscription and OS platforms, so we want to make it easy for families to find “good stuff” whether they use Netflix, Amazon, ebooks, Book Passage, Apple or Google Play. We’re neutral to platforms, channel service or point of purchase for families.
One of my biggest issues is screen time management. How does SmartFeed help?
This is a challenge for me as well! I've found that agreeing on allotted screen times, and what that time can be used for helps a ton. My kids have more freedom on the weekend (1-2 hours/day for games, movies) - and again, they can use that time to choose from a ton of great options through SmartFeed, so they feel satisfied and in control. Then, we are much more limited during the week - no screen time on personal devices, only TV shows we watch together as a family. We think this is a personal choice for every parent, but setting parameters that work for your family-- and sticking to them -- will help bring control to the chaos!
What other features are planned for the future?
Everything we do is about making finding - and sharing - good media easier for parents. So our feature roadmap is around making great recommendations quick to find and easy to share across networks. We are excited to partner and recommend a few great options helping parents track & manage specific web sites and device usage as well. But, for the near term - our reason for being centers on simplifying the media complexity for parents so they can connect to their kids’ - as well as their screen time by using media as a tool to support their parenting philosophies.
Linsly Donnelly, mom of three, is a start-up veteran. Aside from being co-founder and C.O.O. of Joann.com and C.M.O. of Wine.com, she is now the founder and CEO of SmartFeed, which offers parents better control over what their kids watch, play and share. Connect with SmartFeed on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.